UMass Amherst to Close Dental Clinic July 1

AMHERST, Mass. - University Health Services (UHS) at the University of Massachusetts will close its dental clinic July 1. Javier Cevallos, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, announced the closing, following the release last week of a consultant''s report on funding alternatives and possible service changes at UHS.

"This is one step in an overall action plan to address some of the issues raised in the consultant''s report," says Cevallos. The campus is also proposing to the University''s board of trustees that student health fees be reduced by 10 percent in the coming year, with a targeted reduction in the basic health fee of 33 percent.

The report by Nolan & Bober Associates Inc., of Somers and Portland, Conn., found that as health care and reimbursement methods have changed, insurance payments to UHS began to lag behind costs. The result, says Cevallos, is that in recent years student fees have made up for costs not fully paid by insurance carriers.

Because of the proposed reduction in fees, the services provided through the basic health fee are being reviewed, and UHS is also looking at ways to control and reduce costs through greater efficiency and productivity, says Cevallos.

Bernette Melby, director of health services, says the dental clinic, which opened in 1973, has not been able to cover its costs for several years. In 1999, Melby says, the clinic recorded a loss of $260,000. During that year, 7,500 patients, mostly students, were treated at the clinic.

Seven full-time employees currently work at the clinic: two dentists, two hygienists, two dental assistants, and one office manager.

"The seven-member clinic staff will be providing care to patients until July," says Melby. "During this period of transition we will be assisting both our staff and our patients in making future plans."

"This is a very difficult decision that in no way reflects the level of care and commitment shown by our staff," Cevallos says. "The University very much appreciates their dedication and service."